After a little more than a year, Frostpunk finally arrives on consoles. Is this survival city management game worth checking out, or should you let it slip on by? Check out our review and find out.
The world of Frostpunk has been afflicted by what is known as The Frost. As the name implies, everything froze, and civilization was slowly destroyed by it. The only choice left is to go north to create a new city, the last town on earth. While going north may seem counter-intuitive, there is a generator there that provides warmth in a large radius. When you finally arrive, it is time to get to work and to rebuild civilization.
Frostpunk is a city management survival game. It is a high-stress type of game, where minor choices can actually sink you quickly. Starting with only a handful of people, you mine coal, build tents, and fire up the generator. As your city grows, so does its needs: food, warmth, shelter, recreation, medicine, law and order, and hope. Your first main objective is only to survive for 20 days. I failed this around four times before finally getting there. Then past the 20 days, there is another major challenge that also sank me a couple of times.
The choices you make determine how long you can go. When I say choices, I mean building decisions, worker choices, and the occasional citizen request. My first failure came quickly after neglecting my sick people for only a day. Disease spread and I couldn’t catch up, leaving my workers unable to work and my generator without fuel. Learning from that, I made sure to stay on top of medical tents the next time. Food was my next problem as more survivors joined, and hunger was setting in. I felt like I was supposed to fail a few times, and I quickly learned that the most straightforward and quickest solution is often the best choice.
As the commander of the outpost, you also occasionally have to make new laws. Some of these options are hard to choose; you can have children work, but they can get injured and people don’t like seeing kids doing manual labor. You have this constant battle between hope and discontent that always keeps you on your toes. Having kids working lowers overall hope? Just sign the law that lets you build a bar so people can drink their problems away. Your options can often feel harsh, but this is about humanity’s survival, and there is no room for weak links.
While you maintain the outpost and choose what to build there, you can also send out scouts into the white wastes. They will journey to different areas and search for resources and survivors. There are more choices to be made here as well. Do you want to send them back right away, or risk them going further to find more supplies? Do you send the civilians back alone, or escort them back so they get there safely? With everything going on, it is often easy to overlook little things that can finish a settlement. Yes, you want more survivors, but you don’t want 20 new sick people to show up if you don’t have beds in the med bay for them.
While the game is tough, it is fair – for the most part. During that 20 day survival of the first scenario, you get to a point where hope plummets off a cliff. I was doing so well, and all of a sudden people want to leave and go back to London. My hope bar was roughly 75% full, and my discontent was below 20%, and this just blasts me out of nowhere. Somehow I am expected to believe these people who I have fed, kept warm, and kept healthy, now want to trek back to London through the frozen wastes that damn near killed us the first time. I’d understand if I wasn’t doing well, but that was my best run, and the game said: “ah ah ah, that won’t do.”
Assuming you can actually survive for 20 days, more scenarios open up. These are sort of like mini-campaigns that you can run to test your skills. They give you timed missions that might seem easy enough on paper, but you will run into plenty of obstacles that hinder progress at every turn. On top of that, there is an endless mode. You get to choose is resources are generous or scare, pick a map, and then survive as long as you can. The longer you go, the worse things get; new storms come in every so often, making the temperature drop even further. If you combine all the scenarios and endless mode, I can easily see people getting 25 hours out of this title.
Tech-wise, I didn’t run into any frame drops, crashes, or bugs while playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro. I also want to mention that the controls on the DualShock controller are superb. It took me an hour or so to get used to it, but when I did, everything was smooth. The only issue I had was sometimes zooming in; it got a little funky, and didn’t work until I zoomed further out.
Frostpunk is not for the faint of heart. However, if you think you can handle the stressful job of being a leader, you can easily lose a couple of nights to the game.